CHINA said on Wednesday the world should respect Myanmarâ€™s judicial sovereignty after the junta sent Aung San Suu Kyi back into detention, triggering Western outrage but only a measured response from its neighbours.
China, one of the few nations that stands by the junta, urged the outside world not interfere in Myanmarâ€™s affairs, suggesting Beijing would not back any UN action against the country.
Suu Kyi, a 64-year-old Nobel Peace laureate, was sentenced to three years for violating an internal security law, but the junta said immediately after Tuesdayâ€™s verdict it would halve the sentence and allow her to serve the time at her Yangon home.
Suu Kyiâ€™s National League for Democracy (NLD) party condemned the ruling because it was based on a law from Myanmarâ€™s 1974 constitution, no longer in use.
â€œPassing such judgment is not in accordance with the law. It is, moreover, tantamount to violating human rights. We therefore condemn it in the strongest terms,â€ the NLD said in a statement.
Lawyer Nyan Win said Suu Kyi had told him after the court verdict to explore â€œall legal avenuesâ€ to secure her release. He said the appeals process could take time.
Security was tight near Suu Kyiâ€™s home on Wednesday. Nyan Win said he had not received an answer to his request to visit her.
The verdict drew sharp criticism from leaders around the world and the European Union said it was preparing sanctions.
Western nations pressed the UN Security Council to adopt a statement condemning the sentence, but other countries, including veto-wielding members Russia and China, stalled for time.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said it was time for dialogue with Myanmar, not criticism.
â€œThis not only accords with Myanmarâ€™s interests, it is also beneficial to regional stability,â€ she said in a statement. â€œInternational society should fully respect Myanmarâ€™s judicial sovereignty.â€
Analysts said Suu Kyiâ€™s reduced sentence may have been an attempt to appease Myanmarâ€™s friends and neighbours â€“â€“ China, India and Thailand, in particular â€“â€“ whose trade has propped up a state crippled by international sanctions.
The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), of which Myanmar is a member, on Wednesday expressed â€œdeep disappointmentâ€ about Suu Kyiâ€™s detention, following similar statements by member countries that stopped short of criticising the regime.
Asean maintains a policy of quiet diplomacy and non-interference in the internal affairs of its members, but the juntaâ€™s refusal to improve its human rights record has been the main source of tension within the 10-member bloc.
Critics have dismissed the trial as a ploy by the junta to keep Suu Kyi off the campaign trail ahead of next yearâ€™s multi-party elections, the first since 1990, when the NLDâ€™s landslide win was ignored by the generals.
The charges stemmed from American intruder John Yettawâ€™s two-day uninvited stay at Suu Kyiâ€™s lakeside home in May, which the judge said that breached her house arrest terms.
Yettaw, who had told the court that God sent him to warn Suu Kyi she would be assassinated, was sentenced to seven yearsâ€™ hard labour in a parallel trial on three charges, including immigration offences and â€œswimming in a non-swimming areaâ€.
Many people in Myanmar expressed disappointment that she was again being detained but were relieved she was allowed to serve her time at home rather than in one of Myanmarâ€™s brutal prisons.
â€œFrankly, I just donâ€™t know whether to be happy or angry about it,â€ said Yangon-based accountant, Myint.
Veteran politician Thakhin Chan Tun (88) said the verdict was â€œvery unfair and inappropriateâ€ and aimed only at keeping her away from elections.
A commentary carried in three of Myanmarâ€™s state-controlled newspapers on Wednesday said the decision to detain Suu Kyi should be accepted to allow the country to move forward.
Myanmarâ€™s military, which has ruled the country with an iron fist for almost five decades, has been impervious to international criticism and reluctant to engage with the West.
The generals insist next yearâ€™s elections will be free and fair and will pave the way for a civilian government.
Critics dismiss the polls as an attempt to legitimise army rule. â€“â€“ Reuters.